The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 26th

Talk to Put Photographer in Focus

She's also the sort of person who, once there, would face the situation with humor and aplomb, probably take a lover or two and in the end come back with thoughtful stories and amazing photographs documenting what had happened.

Kogan is a photojournalist, but not just any photojournalist -- at 22, fresh out of college, she moved to Paris to find work and soon thereafter found herself on the back of a truck with a bunch of rebel freedom fighters in Afghanistan.

Kogan will be speaking about her new memoir, "Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War" Thursday at the Bull's Head Bookshop. The memoir is a reflection on Kogan's travels from Romania to Zimbabwe and Russia to Israel.

In other words, Kogan's post-graduation adventures are what the parents of UNC's class of 2002 are having nightmares about -- but that, of course, never stopped Kogan.

"I was always very independent," Kogan said. "My parents were very supportive, and they thought I had good instincts. Some parents really hover, but I think kids should have the right to fall, to learn on their own.

"There's nothing like experience to teach somebody."

Indeed, Kogan is proof of that. Before moving to Paris, Kogan said, her knowledge of French consisted of what she had learned in middle school. Now fluent, she says the only real way to learn is to be forced to work with French-speaking people -- and to develop relationships with French-speaking boyfriends.

In fact, one of the characteristics that marks Kogan's book is a sort of Cosmo-style openness about her various relationships and sexual encounters throughout her travels, something for which Kogan makes no apologies.

"You're there not only as a photojournalist. You're also living life, personal life and sexual life -- it's all inextricably intertwined. Human beings are bizarre and quirky, and once you start hiding things, you start creating a character who is not believable."

Nor is Kogan's casual forthrightness about topics ranging from drugs to abortions something she was ever embarrassed about.

"My parents have read (the book); my parents' friends have read it. I've always been blunt, and I think honesty is the best policy," Kogan said.

Kogan's honesty, however, has drawn a mixed critical response. Her book has gotten rave reviews but also some "vicious mean ones," Kogan said. She has been criticized on two different counts for being "anti-feminist," a charge that Kogan says she finds ridiculous.

"(Some critics said), 'How dare she give it up to become a stay-at-home mom?' Which is funny, since writing this book was an attempt to balance motherhood with a career. Basically, I've been called an anti-feminist because I embrace motherhood.

"The other reaction I get is being called a slut -- accusing me of sleeping my way into stories," Kogan said.

Part of the problem is the ironic titles of the sections of her book, each of which is named after a man who played a central role in that particular adventure.

"People had a really hard time with my naming the chapters after men. I was assuming a subtle irony on the reader's part."

Whatever the case, this so-called stay-at-home, anti-feminist mom has been up to her old tricks again. The nominal figure from her book's final section, Jacob (who happens to be Kogan's 6-year-old son) recently traveled with his mom to Pakistan to deliver donations from his first-grade class to Afghani refugees. Kogan wrote an article about this latest adventure for O Magazine.

She will be speaking about "Shutterbabe" and her most recent trip at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bull's Head Bookshop at Student Stores. Be prepared to have your appetite whetted for adventure.

As Kogan put it, "At 22, if you don't follow your dreams, you're never going to follow them."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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